Growing up, I thought it was kind of cool to be Polish.Â There are not a lot of us out here in California; it was nice to be unique.Â And though I have always envied the Irish for having such a merry and universally-celebrated holiday, I’ve always been quietly proud that my great-grandparents came from the land of Chopin and Paderewski.Â One of these years, I hope to travel there myself.
Thankfully, I get a little “Polish fix” each winter. My cousin Mark’s wife Lisa is also of Polish descent, and several years ago, she decided to create a new tradition: an evening of kielbasa, pierogi, pagach, Polish trivia, and other good things.Â Â Every year she and my cousin host us all, and it’s always a great time.
Last weekend was no exception.
Before dinner, we snapped a photo of all of the adult Poles-by-blood (there were several Poles-by-marriage in the company, too).Â The kids were off doing something else, probably involving Matchbox cars or a drum set, both of which got a lot of play over the course of the evening.
We ate very well, too:
My contribution was going to be an authentic coffee and chocolate mousse.Â Alas, it was an epic fail, with melted chocolate that turned intoÂ the consistency of cement.Â (I improvised a simple cake last-minute; see the amended menu above.)Â It’s a curious fact that nearly every time I’ve made a recipe from an authentic Polish cookbook, something has gone wrong.Â I take this as a sign that when it comes to Polish cuisine, my roleÂ in life is to eat it, not to create it.
I did that extremely well on Saturday,Â consuming more cranberry rugelah than I should ever admit to in polite company.Â Â And did I mention the kielbasa?Â (Vegetarians, avert your gaze.)
Overall, it was a fabulous evening.Â I’m grateful for Lisa’s vision all those years ago, and for her work to keep the family heritage alive.Â And I love that my two little boys, those Polish-Irish-German-English mutts, get a yearly celebration of one of the places in the world that has made them who they are.